“Dead Rabbit Hopes” has a mesmerizing matter-of-factness about it, creating a serious flow with the gentlest of beats.
Delicate and determined, “Dead Rabbit Hopes” is the shy girl who is not really shy at all, just uninterested in attracting attention via normal channels. “I am hungry for you/I am chewing straight through you”—see? Not so shy. The song has a mesmerizing matter-of-factness about it, creating a serious flow with the gentlest of beats. The lyrics, actually, have this odd way of sounding like they might have otherwise been rapped but instead have floated into a sweet, interval-jumping melody.
The vocalist for The Shoe by the way is actress Jena Malone and if you are initially skeptical of her seriousness as a musician look no further than this quote from a recent online interview: “I’m still trying to write like ‘Cortez the Killer.’ I want it to happen one day.” She has me at “Cortez the Killer.” Her partner in the odd, improvisation-fueled musical project that is The Shoe is Lem Jay Ignacio, a Los Angeles area musician and composer who himself was profiled in the New York Times way back in 2000 for being a pioneer in the field of creating music and audio effects for the web. He told the Times: “It’s exciting to think of sound not as a melody or phrase but as tiny frozen and unfrozen specks of sonic sparkle.” He has me at “specks of sonic sparkle.” Clearly these two oddballs are meant for each other; they have in fact been noodling around musically since 2008.
As for the strange normal-ness of “Dead Rabbit Hopes,” Malone in the same previously cited interview gives us a handhold on what she may be singing about, here: “It’s a metaphor saying that sometimes it is hard being a girl,” she is quoted as saying. “It is so easy to feel so far removed from your beauty. You end up valuing other people’s value of it.” Even if that doesn’t completely clarify anything, I respect the insight. The song appears on the debut album from The Shoe, entitled I’m Okay, released earlier this month via Community Music and There Was An Old Woman Records (as in “who lived in a…).
She sings in sighs; it seems you hear her every breath.
Lisa Germano is rivaled only by Tom Waits when it comes to the ability to insert sad, majestic melodies into squirrelly settings. Her songs tend to feel fractured, half-discarded. She sings in sighs; it seems you hear her every breath. In many if not most of her songs, she creates the disconcerting sense that much more is going on than either the words or the music quite reveals.
“And So On” is classic Germano—delicate and peculiar, gorgeous and heart-rending. Beginning with an unadorned piano and voice lament, the background shifts at 0:41 when Germano breaths out the words, “Oh, animals,” and that’s what we get—a barnyard full of chickens and cows and such, suddenly doing their thing in the background. “I just don’t want to know/The places people go,” Germano then sings, a line that seems somehow both to clarify and baffle; and by the way, check out both that chord under the word “places” and the lovely resolution it leads to, briefly. What a short and unusual journey this is. The chorus simply repeats the title phrase, as if its principal section was somehow excised and we are left both musically and lyrically with the afterthought. An acrobatic bass line temporarily wrestles the background spotlight from the animals, but they return in force the next time around. Are the animals the chatter that we try to fill our head with after a loss? Are our inner voices as confused and helpless as the voices of those without language at all? Are our emotions best expressed without words?
So far I’ve only got questions, no answers. But note that “And So On” is a song from a new album, called No Elephants, which is intended to be listened to as a whole, with a beginning and middle and end. The song is third from last. So on the one hand we are missing context but on the other hand, Germano is never all that straightforward—consider that she saw fit to put this song out there on its own, after all—so I’m guessing the entire album will likewise prompt more questions than answers. No Elephants is due out next month on Badman Recordings. MP3 again via Magnet Magazine. Site-related trivia note: Germano’s “It’s Party Time,” in May 2003 (note Web 1.0 format!), was the first song featured on Fingertips. She was also here in 2006.